A picture of a child’s birthday party flashes up on my Facebook page. It’s from an old school friend whom I’ve reconnected with through the “C” word. (Isn’t it funny how that seems to be happening more and more?)
My friend and her husband are each wearing funny hats. The table is full of goodies like cupcakes and a chocolate cake (home-made if I know my friend) that says, Happy third birthday, Ben.
Her grandchildren must have moved in. I can’t help feeling envious. Then I look more closely and see that instead of toddlers sitting around the table, there are teddies. My friend is doing a “pretend” birthday party for her grandson!
Like many of us they are indulging in make-believe to reassure not just our families but also us. And what’s wrong with that? I call it “creative grandparenting”.
Another of my friends did something similar when her husband celebrated his 70th birthday party last week. She Skyped them cutting a slice of birthday cake while the grandchildren – 300 miles away – cut into an identical cake which their mother had made. Then the grandparents played music for pass the parcel, calling out “stop” every now and then. They could see and hear the delighted squeals on screen as their grandchildren unpeeled the layers to find a present.
Through the window
Meanwhile, I’ve become more creative about waving through the window to Rose and George during our dog walks. Even though we obviously observe social distancing, I’ve started to wonder if this is doing more harm than good for both sides. After a few waves, the children lose interest because all they want is for us to come through the front door, which of course we can’t.
Then my daughter came up with a suggestion after talking to a friend of hers. “Why don’t you hold up a piece of paper with some fun things to do,” she suggests. “You could ask them to sing a song or clap their hands.”
Great idea! I’d already been making up some bedtime stories about to read it out on Facebook. I used a cartoon from the Internet and wrote my own plot featuring a made-up character called Miranda the Mermaid who gets into adventures with Rose and George. But they are sometimes too tired at the end of the day to listen.
So I used the same picture and then below, wrote down the following:
Miranda says clap your hands six times.
Miranda says put your right hand up.
Miranda says sing “Twinkle Twinkle little star”
When we arrived, the children were waiting at the window. My daughter read out the lines but I couldn’t hear their responses through the glass. (We didn’t want to open the window.) So then she and I switched on our mobiles and we had sound on both sides!
It worked a treat apart from the right hand bit. “Wrong arm, Gan Gan,” shouts Rose when I join in. Of course, she was seeing it from the other side!
Back at home, I’m painting a little cardboard soap box. I don’t know about you but the “C” word has made me even more determined not to waste anything that might be re-used. When it’s dry, I’m going to put a shell in that I found on the beach and give it to Rose. I’ll also do the same for George. In a funny way, it’s to help me as much as them.
Joining in on World Book Night
I’ve also got some ideas for this Thursday when it’s World Book Night, organised by the Reading Agency to encourage everyone to read or hear books. A lot of us have always done this but it seems particularly important at this time. It’s a great escape.
One of my Penguin thrillers, The Dead Ex, has been selected as a World Book Night title which is very exciting. However, I won’t be reading that to my grandchildren! They’re not old enough for crime yet. (At least I hope not!) Instead I’ve found one of their mummy’s old books. It’s a “tell the time” picture book which my father gave them when they were small. I’ll read it them on Facetime and hope they don’t fall asleep.
If you’ve got a special book you’re intending to read to your grandchildren on World Book Night, do get in touch. You can tweet me at @janecorryauthor or email me on email@example.com. I’d love to know why it’s special to you.
Nature up close
On another note, you might remember that my daughter ordered some caterpillars through the post in order to teach the children about the life cycle of a butterfly. Coco and her friends have now reached the pupae stage. Little Rose and George are mesmerised.
My daughter and her husband have even made special nature books to go with them. It won’t be long before they become butterflies.
“What will happen then?” asks Rose when we’re discussing this during a FaceTime call.
“They will fly away and be free,” says my daughter. She looks at me. I know exactly what she’s thinking.
One day, hopefully, we’ll all be free too. Hang onto that.